Networking Despised

“I hate networking, I even hate the idea of networking.”  “It’s so sleazy, so artificial, so, so, transactional.”  I hear these comments all the time from clients when I suggest that an expanding web of connections is their key to finding a new job and thriving in one’s career. My clients and friends think of awkward cocktail parties that give them flashbacks to middle school dances. They get flashbacks to the uber aggressive guy on campus who joined the multilevel marketing scheme.

Perhaps this is your reaction. And yet, I invite you to consider dear reader, that this work-life essential may not be as bad as you think. In this and a subsequent post, we will explore a definition of connection making, we will explore a method, and we will even trace the practice back to ancient history. In the end, we will suggest that expanding your web of connections is actually a way to love your neighbor rather than a selfishly driven strategy for manipulating others to your advantage. We begin with a story that illustrates why the expanding web is essential.

Essential Networking

My friend, Scott, landed a great new job, a similar role, but in a different industry. The whole thing came about through networking.

  1. A friend (networking) passed on some intel: the CEO was overheard joking about the fact that there would be a declining need for Scott’s department
  2. Scott probed internal possibilities and even auditioned for a potential role by taking others in that role to lunch (networking).
  3. He collected valuable first-hand data (networking) regarding the direction for which his higher-ups were steering him. He discerned that the internal track would not be a good fit.
  4. So Scott began to look outside of his firm, exploring a similar role in a different industry. A few months into the process, he got a call from a connection. They’d been part of an industry peer group together (networking). She invited him to apply for an opening in her department (networking). He took the new job.

This is the way it usually works.

85% of new jobs are found (and that means 85% of vacant positions are filled) through networking.

[1]  Scott would not even have known he needed to be looking for a job without working his network.  How would we define this practice?

Networking Defined

Networking or Expanding your Web of Connections (for those of you who hate the term) is identifying the people you need to know and putting yourself in the places and circles where you will meet them.

You have to know who you need to know (and why)

You have to know how to meet them.

Why Network?

  1. Trust in institutions is at an all-time low.  We want to find people we can trust.
  2. Information overload is at an all-time, meaning it is impossible to sort through the data we can access. Human connection helps us decide what and who to listen to.
  3. People want to do business with people they like. And they cannot like people they do not know.
  4. Most job offers and most promotions are driven by connections not just performance.
  5. Since people are made in God’s image, the more of them you know, the more of God you get to see.

A Biblical Practice

We can never be sure which connection will be the one that leads to something significant, but we can be sure that non-connections won’t lead to anything!

Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days…In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good. (Ecclesiastes 11:1,6)

There is no more detailed account of ancient practices than those that are found in the Bible. In these texts, we find numerous examples of key figures intentionally networking and through those connections moving important elements of the plotline forward. Here are three examples.

  1. The ancient patriarch Abraham seeks a wife for his son Isaac. He gives his servant detailed instructions regarding where to go and where not to go, who to talk to and who not to talk to. His servant follows all the instructions and networks carefully (and also does a good bit of praying). In the end, he finds a suitable bride leading to much joy and celebration (See Genesis Chapter 24)
  2. Jesus stopped for a drink at a well in the district of Samaria during the heat of the day. Samaria was a detestable area for any self-respecting Jew. As for the Samarians, only outcasts would come to a well during the heat of the day (the socially accepted women of the village would come in the cool of the morning or evening). But a woman came there to that well, and she had a fascinating interaction with Jesus. Through this conversation, Jesus crossed racial and gender lines to show the generosity of his message. (See John Chapter 4)
  3. The Apostle Paul was very strategic in his approach to sharing the message of First-Century Christianity. He went to cities where he’d find cosmopolitan concentrations of people. He went to religious cites, synagogues or areas deemed sacred, and in those places, to people who were already religious seekers, he made his pitch. Through this strategy, he spread the humanizing, compassion-inducing Christian faith throughout the Roman Empire (See Acts Chapters 14-19)

Four Factors:  Each of the following were evidenced in the ancient art of networking.

  1. Intention: there was a purpose behind each effort.
  2. Focus: based on the purpose, a networking target or focus was selected.
  3. Action: each person acted in pursuit of the desired new connections. There was nothing passive about any of the above figures.
  4. Connection and Celebration: the sought after connections were made and in every case celebration and joy were the results.

In our next post, we will provide details for each step.

RELATED: The Number One Secret to Successful Professional Networking

My Networking Journey

I’m a networking fan. Sometimes I call it making connections, building relationships, making new friends. They are all essentially the same to me and they have been essential in over 3 decades of working.

  • I’ve had ten jobs over my lifetime, and each one has come through networking.
  • I’ve done three startups, all have grown through networking.
  • Five years ago, I transitioned from the far-flung suburbs of Philadelphia to the heart of New York City. I found my current role through networking.
  • For these last five years, I have consistently met 100 new people or more per quarter.
  • Our organization is currently serving over 40 clients and is funded by over 60 donors, and all these critical relationships have come through networking.

How About You?

  1.  How has having a specific relationship or connection, made a significant difference in your work journey?
  2. What was your starting point with the practice of networking before you read this post?
  3. How has this post changed both your concept of and what is likely to be your practice of networking?